Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mutual Ins. – UM Coverage in Missouri, Partial Exclusions and Stacked Coverage

Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mutual Ins. – UM Coverage in Missouri, Partial Exclusions and Stacked Coverage

The stacking of auto insurance policies refers to the practice of combining insurance coverage limits to account for more than one vehicle insured under a multi-car policy, or under separate policies of insurance.

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St. Louis car accident lawyers know the practice of stacking has been the subject of quite a few appellate court decisions in recent years, particularly as it relates to uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM or UIM coverage). Most insurance contain language or provisions that seek to prevent stacking coverage. Sometimes, this is done through partial exclusions. However, it’s not uncommon for the courts to find the language to be ambiguous and therefore unenforceable.

The recent Missouri Supreme Court case of Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mutual Ins. Co. was not one of those, unfortunately. (However, there are plenty of other examples to the contrary. More on that later.)

In the Floyd-Tunnell case, a husband and wife owned three vehicles, each covered under separate auto insurance policies from the same carrier. Each policy listed both husband and wife as the insureds. Each indicated a UM policy cap of $100,000. However, there was a partial exclusion if the crash did not involve the vehicle listed on the policy.

Subsequently, the husband was involved in a fatal crash with an uninsured motorist. His widow sought a total of $300,000 in UM coverage – the full $100,000 cap for each policy. The insurer, however, cited the partial owned-vehicle exclusion in refusing to pay more than $150,000 – which was the full $100,000 on the first policy, plus the $25,000 statutory minimum required under state law for the other two policies.

The widow filed suit, arguing the policy language was ambiguous. Alternatively, she argued that as a named insured, the partial owned-vehicle exclusion didn’t apply to her because she wasn’t in the vehicle at the time of the crash. The state supreme court ultimately upheld the summary judgment in favor of the insurer, finding the policy language unambiguous and finding her interpretation of “insured” incorrect; the policy referred to the vehicle in which her husband was in. Because she was not injured in the crash, she was not considered the “insured” per the terms of the policy and was not directly entitled to damages, except as the representative of her husband’s estate.

Other Missouri insurance stacking cases have had differing outcomes. For example, in the 2010 case ofKarscig v. Mcconville, et al., the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that when two policies cover the same automobile – in the form of an ownership policy and an operator’s policy – any anti-stacking clauses in the contract are void against public policy.

However, in another 2010 case – O’Rourke v. Esurance Insurance Company et al, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that in cases where there is a single policy insuring multiple vehicles, the state’s financial responsibility law only requires a $25,000 minimum coverage for each insured vehicle involved in a crash. The law does not require that $25,000 for each vehicle covered under the policy just because one vehicle was involved in a crash.

Missouri case law has well-settled the issue of stacking, such that stacking in UM coverage is allowable, and most anti-stacking provisions are void. In cases where the insured has two separate policies, both containing UM coverage, the insured is entitled to collect on both.

The Floyd-Tunnell decision was about whether an insured was entitled to collect the maximum on both. The court ruled that is not necessarily the case. Each claim is going to depend heavily on both the circumstances of the case, as well as the language contained in each policy.

Additional Resources:
Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mutual Ins. Co., July 29, 2014, Missouri Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Missouri Law Enforcement Crackdown on Distraction Behind the Wheel, April 14, 2014, St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri. We help people who have been injured in all types of accidents—including car or truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and much more. Whether your injury is something that can cause long-term issues like a brain injury or spinal cord injury, or it is something you’ll likely make a full recovery from, we are here to help.

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